Ten-month old “Baby M.” suffered pain and scarring on her chest and neck from a hot coffee burn.
A confidentiality agreement precludes disclosure of the parties in this case. The incident occurred on July 3, 2010, at a popular national chain restaurant in Santa Barbara, California. After a cup of hot coffee was placed within reach of Baby M., she grabbed the cup, spilling the coffee onto her chest and neck causing severe burns.
Baby M.'s mother ran to the restaurant's bathroom with Baby M., removed the coffee soaked clothing and saw Baby M.'s burned Coffee spills can be harmful skin. The family rushed Baby M. to the emergency room at Cottage Hospital. The lawsuit alleged that a server negligently placed a cup of hot coffee within reach of Baby M. The insurance company for the restaurant contended that the parents were at fault for inattention to Baby M. and the environment. The server stated that he saw the parents place the coffee in front of the infant.
Throughout the hotly contested litigation, attorneys' Steven R. Andrade (Andrade Law Offices) and Juan Huerta (Law Offices of Juan Huerta) wanted to ensure that the award would cover the needs of Baby M. for the rest of her life and fully compensate her parents for their emotional distress. Both attorneys and the family were delighted with the settlement of more than $2.6M. Baby M. will receive more than $1.8M over the course of her lifetime to ensure she receives proper medical care, counseling for her emotional well-being, and to finance her college education.
The position of Andrade Law Offices and the Law Office of Juan Huerta is that restaurants have a responsibility to properly train their employees with respect to safety practices when serving the public. The lawsuit uncovered several failure points in the company's training programs and policies relating to maintenance of coffee temperature records, the point of sale records and preservation of video surveillance. As a result of this case, and to their credit, the restaurant implemented more stringent training programs and policies for all of their restaurants to ensure the safety of their customers.
Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to severe burns from scalding liquid because they have thinner skin than adults resulting in deeper burns from the same exposure. Further, the same cup of spilled coffee will burn a much larger portion of a small child's body than an adult's body. Small children have less perception of danger and are unable to escape a burning situation on their own. According to Children Fire and Burn Prevention Programs, an estimated 65% of children ages 4 and under who are hospitalized for burns are treated for scald burns.